WESTFIELD – After a troubled history with previous presidents, Westfield State University has ended a 10-month search, recommending Dr. Ramon Torrecilha as its candidate to lead the school.
The Board of Trustees decided on Torrecilha on Oct. 28, and he will interview with the Board of Higher Education on Dec. 1. The board will decide whether or not to accept Torrecilha, negotiate a contract and select an official start date.
Torrecilha was up against Dr. Linda Vaden-Goad, the vice president of Academic Affairs at Framingham State University, and Dr. Damian Fernandez, chief executive officer of Ethical Culture Fieldston School. Fernandez withdrew as a candidate on Oct. 27.
Torrecilha has served as provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at California State University Dominguez, where he currently is a sociology professor. He previously worked as executive vice president of Mills College, including two stints as acting president.
As he has carried on throughout his career, Torrecilha said he has been “strategic in seeking out positions that would one day prepare me for presidency,” but he wanted to wait until he found the right college or university.
“The goal has always been for me to maybe becomes president. What was important for me was really a good fit. I wanted to be at an institution that I could really see myself in,” Torrecilha told Reminder Publications.
He said he was drawn to Westfield State’s rich history, which he said reflected his own standards.
“The fact that the school was founded long ago in 1838 by Horace Mann as the first co-educational college in America to offer education without barrier to race, creed or economic status, that really spoke to my values and to the type of institution that I wanted to be a part of,” he said.
Though Torrecilha will not be on campus in an official capacity until late January with the start of the spring semester, he has already started looking to Westfield State’s future.
He said he has developed a four-year plan. “The Westfield Experience” will begin with creating learning communities for all students. The second year will focus on reflection, “a time for students to think about long term goals and short term goals and how those goals align with the curriculum and courses they are taking.”
The third year brings attention to high impact practices.
“Student research should be a right not a privilege,” Torrecilha said.
The final year of the plan, “the last mile,” is to work with students to transition to either the labor force or graduate school, as well as investing in faculty and staff development.
Torrecilha also said other priorities will be establishing a leadership team and being visible on campus, in the community and in Boston.
His vision for the university in the coming years is to “become a model, a premiere public comprehensive educational institution for Massachusetts and the nation.”
Westfield State already has a solid foundation to get there, he said, which is what impressed him from the start.
“The fact that Westfield State is a student centered institution, it’s an institution that really meets the students where they are. Instead of asking ourselves if our students are ready for college, Westfield State is the type of institution that asks if Westfield is ready for the students,” Torrecilha said. “I was really encouraged and touched by the fact that you have at Westfield State an institution that is truly committed to student success.”